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Well, here we are just over a week out and all the usual sights and sounds are dropping into place.

The tree went up at Port Swiller Manor this weekend, my efforts to filibuster its earlier arrival having proved more effective than I had thought.  This year, after I had set it up and put on the lights, the younger gels decorated the entire thing all by themselves, with only a minimal amount of post hoc editing required on my part.   (Take a wild guess at who’s going to have to take everything down, though.)

Once pine needles enter a house, they never really do go away again, do they.

The lovely and talented Sleepy Beth speaks sooth on subject of the Elf on the Shelf.

Tomorrow is my office Holiday Party and I’m wracking my brains for a way to slide out of it diplomatically.  We hates office holiday parties.  Well (cough), perhaps something will (sniff) come up (hack, sniff, cough!).

Yesterday was Lessons & Carols at RFEC, with the middle gel duly rendering the first verse solo of “Once In Royal David’s City”.   During the course of things, it occurred to me again just how much I actually dislike “Joy To The World”.   You wouldn’t think that a combination of Isaac Watts and G.F. Handel would be such a miss, but the more I ponder on it, the clunkier it sounds.  There’s something especially cringe-making to me about that second verse with its “fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains”.

On the other hand, it’s quite easy to understand why whoever it is that came up with “Christmas Goes Baroque” is going to the special hell.

UPDATE:  I’ve been forced to go back to the local classickal radio station (don’t ask why) and either it’s my imagination staging a palace coup of my skull or else they really are only playing about the same half dozen carols and pieces over and over and over again, apparently hoping that if they use different performances and arrangements, nobody will notice.

Eldest Gel:  “Hey, Dad!  Did you know the world’s going to end on Friday?”

Self:  “Too bad.  But you still have to do your homework.”

E.G.:  “Awwwwwww…….

catechismThose friends of the decanter who are interested in such things may like to know that ol’ Robbo just finished John Zmirak’s latest book, The Bad Catholic’s Guide To The Catechism.  My reaction?  Well, I plan to go right back to the beginning and start all over again, if that gives you any indication.   Of all the Bad Catholic books Zmirak’s put out to date, I really think this is the best one.  It’s set up as a  Socratic dialogue between  a worldly sophisticate and the author, in which the latter explains (patiently, for the most part) how this whole big thing called Catholicism actually works.   The book is tight and snappy (although there are some occasional rants aside for those who like ’em) and laugh-out-loud funny in many places (although it is deadly serious in others, especially when confronting the nastier episodes of Church history).  So far as I can tell in my own ignorance, it’s also bang-on orthodox in its teachings.  Above all, it fills me with that sense of awe, wonder, humility and idiocy that makes me want to shout with joy at God’s greatness and hide under a rock lest He spot me, all at the same time.  (Your mileage may vary, of course.)

I like to think of Zmirak as the Jonah Goldberg of Catholic Apologetics.   And I mean that as a compliment.  Like the G-man defending Hayek or Adam Smith, Zmirak delves into the Magisterium with a mix of honesty, luminosity and humor in language that is never stuffy or remote, but instead attuned to the current culchah.  (Okay, with its assortment of  Tolkien and Star Wars references, it might be argued that he’s dialed into the geekier corner of said culchah, but that’s no bad thing.)   Also like Jonah, he tends to talk about his dogs a lot.   The comparison breaks down insofar as I don’t believe Zmirak’s couch talks to him, but if you imagine his interlocutor here as a piece of furniture (I’m thinking something Danish Modern) instead of some Upper West Side hipster doofus, then you’re nearly there.

A couple of specific grace notes in this book made me smile in particular.  One was a mention of putting aside some trouble of the world and listening to a Haydn Mass.  I get that.  In fact, I was doing just that thing just last evening.  (I also listened to settings by Taverner and Byrd, but it’s not the same.)   The other was his flagging of a particularly obnoxious piece of political correctness at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT, where some stoodent group from the gender politicks fever swamp sent a memo round demanding that everybody replace he/she/him/her in their writing (and speech?) with “ze” (subjective) and “hir” (objective and possessive).  Ah, me.  I see that things haven’t especially changed since I was there 25 years ago.

In fact, what’s changed is that this sort of nonsense is no longer confined to asylums like dear old Wes, but instead permeates the mainstream more and more.  Which is all the more reason to work of further anchoring oneself in knowledge and faith.  Reading this book certainly helps with that.

UPDATE:  Welcome Bad Catholics!  I’ve never received a Zmirak-lanche before.


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December 2012